technology is reshaping human life, and nanotechnology
is where technology is going. Today'snanoscale science
and technology includes research anddevelopment on the
cutting edge of a broad range of fields.The term "nanotechnology"
has been applied whereverscientists and technologists
are grappling with thefundamental building blocks of
matter, atoms and molecules.
science and technology includes the frontiers of chemistry,
materials, medicine, and computer hardware -the research
that enables the continuing technology revolution.
nanotechnology will be much more.
nanoscale technologies advance, they will enable thedevelopment
of molecular manufacturing, a more systematic and
powerful nanotechnology using nanoscale machines to
build large-scale, atomically precise products cleanly,
at lowcost. This sort of nanotechnology -- the vision
that inspired the field as a whole - will transform
our physical technology
from the bottom up, enabling digital control of the
structure of matter.
important will this be?
products will cure cancer and replace fossil fuels,
yet those advances will, in retrospect, seem a minor
part of thewhole.
technology this powerful will bring both dangers andopportunities.
Much has been made of a concern I raised in 1986,
under the name "gray goo" -- a hypothetical
involving runaway replicators. Building fully self-replicating
machines would be difficult, however, and building
machinesthat could replicate without external help
would be moredifficult still. Current work in the
field shows that it will beeasier and more efficient
to develop molecularmanufacturing without building
any self-replicating machines at all.
molecular manufacturing systems will be desktop-scale
factories making large, useful products. The danger
isn't that the factories will do something uncontrolled,but
that hostile forces will use them to produce new,
decisively powerful weapons. Only vigorous research
can produce a stable defense. Thus, advanced nanotechnologies
are as crucial to security as they are to medicine,
economic productivity, and the future of Earth's environment.
do something about nanotechnology, if you're not working
in the field?
it matters whether we go down the right path indeveloping
and applying these powerful capabilities.Remarkably,
in the U.S. today, the senior national leadershipin
nanoscale science and technology is in denial about
thefuture of the field. Research is accordingly misdirected,
anddiscussion of legitimate concerns has been distorted
byofficial disinformation and politically motivated
attacks. Fresh voices, not tied to the politics of
the federal grant process, can help to redirect the
field and open an honest dialog
about its future....read